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Outtakes/Demos/Withdrawn Singles

Rather often when I write a review I go through a few drafts.  Sometimes these even get uploaded to this website before I change them.  Along the same lines I also sometimes feel that a review can be clarified or no longer represents my opinion of the album.  Any of these castoffs that actually make it to the site will wind up here after being supplanted for a) posterity, b) everyone to make fun of.  This does not include all the edits made in December 2006. Enjoy!

Pink Floyd: A Saucerful of Secrets (Jun 1968), ***1/2
With Barrett pretty much out of the picture, Waters assumed the mantle of chief songwriter and splitting the singing with Wright.  The result is a much darker sounding and less experimental album than Piper.  Gilmour had yet to develop his sustain-heavy tone and shares the stage with Wright for most of the album ("Let Their Be Light").  Barrett does appear on two songs, contributing the pingy lead guitar to Wright's dreamy "Remember a Day" and his own haunting "Jugband Blues" which is a bizarre combination of schizophrenic lyrics and a Salvation Army band.  Barrett left under mysterious circumstances during the making of this album.  The problem is that the group lost the spontaneity of his guitar and was reduced to repeating the same riffs for a touch too long.  Gilmour wasn't entirely in the group either at this point and some tracks seem to lack guitar, instead relying on Wright's creepy background organ to set the mood  ("Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun").  The hilarious rocking "Corporal Clegg" is the best Waters track, and yet is no match for Wright's delightful jazzy "See-Saw". Unfortunately they kept with the times, donating over 10 minutes to a suite of experimental instrumentals (the title track), with Wright seemingly the only consistent factor.  It's ending sounds curiously similar to Procol Harum's "In Held Twas In I", with its wordless vocals and organ line.  Produced by Norman Smith.

Elephant's Memory: Take It to the Streets (1971), ****1/2

[Needed to be reworded in some places. -JH ]

New York had its fair share of bands, but because the city was (and still is) so diverse it's much harder to say that there was a distinct New York sound (outside of the 60s folk circuit), unlike places like Detroit or San Francisco.  Elephant's Memory reflects this - proving adept at a multitude of styles and generally shifting a song into a new genre somewhat unexpectedly, unlike other bands generally mixed genres together at a steady rate.  They had talented players, with bassist John Ward doing a particularly good job, but little emphasis on soloing. They had horns, but not a true horn section (a trombone and a saxophone, the latter played by the lead vocalist Stan Bronstein who gets some nice jazz lines in here and there).  The opening track and supposed hit single "Mongoose" is a good case in point.  The song sounds like a rough-and-tumble Chicago - African rhythms, gravely lead vocals, horns and a catchy chorus. But the very next song "Power" showcases their radical political views with a primitive fast
paced Detroit-sounding song driven by Rick Frank's 1-2 drumming and angry guitars.  The middle section turns into a trade off between two people shouting revolutionary advice ("Rip up the judge" or "Rip up the mail" for example) before the horns completely change the tone of the
song by entering mariachi style, but without changing the beat at all.  How about Myron Yules's "I Couldn't Dream", a catchy parody of overly serious hipster jazz right down to the nonsensical lyrics.  But the rest of the album is at complete odds with the "rock-jazz" tag applied by one book, because for the most part it's angry left-wing country rock.  But it's so cleverly done - "She's Just Naturally Bad" has to be one of the first trashy rockers with a
designated "women join in" chorus line of "I'm Just Naturally Bad".  Another example is "Piece Now" where Detroit meets San Francisco in terms of sound, but is constructed with a counterpoint.  Or what do you do with "Damn" a song which is a good slice of Beatles-country-rock, seems to end, and then turns around to become a Memphis Soul horn ending that gets prolonged in hilarious fashion?  The album is fascinating and smart, with only one track that doesn't quite match the rest ("Ivan" another country rock tune).  The band is Stan Bronstein (lead vocals, tenor sax), Myron Yules (trombone, piano), Rick Frank credited as Reek Havoc (drums), John Ward (bass), David Cohen (guitar, keyboards), Guy Peritore (guitar) and Mike Rose (guitar).  No, I have no idea which guitarist does what. Produced by Ted Cooper.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer: Works, Vol. 1 (1977), ** (Split Rating (see below))

[Overlong.  -JH ]

This should rightfully be credited to Emerson, Lake, Palmer, and (EL&P) as the three decided that anything branded with ELP at this point (four years after their last studio album, four years!) would sell better than individual solo albums.  Artistic integrity (or lack of it) issues aside, the result is three sides solo, one side group.  Emerson's contribution, his "Piano Concerto No. 1" with orchestra (what, no Opus number?), is a fundamentally a genre exercise; even more so than his earlier adaptations of classical works or echoes of them.  He sticks to a Steinway and delivers a work that is notable only in some sections (his playing in the first movement is quite good), while providing sonic evidence that his album would not have sold well.  One might expect Lake to contribute something along the lines of his previous classical acoustic ballads.  Instead, he attempts to mold himself into something like an adult contemporary artist, although I'm not even sure that they existed back then.  He (for he self-produces of course) takes the very odd tack of diminishing his guitar to a tinny backing noise (along with his session band) and boosting his vocals, while singing some rather vanilla Pete Sinfield ballads (the best of these is "C'est La Vie" with a concertina solo of all things, and it's not exactly a great song).  More worrisome is that he seems to be loosing some of his voice as he sounds a bit lower in general and has to scoop his way up to the top notes ("Lend Your Love To Me Tonight").  In the midst of all of this he lets his hair down in an untrustworthy manner in "Nobody Loves You Like I Do" which is akin to the big boss trying to sit down and have a beer with you - is it the genuine article?  But the most stunning side of the album is Carl Palmer's.  While E and L were trying to expand upon their sounds from ELP, Palmer pretty much got to be heard for the first time.  While he does demonstrate some of the attitudes of their previous albums (Prokofiev's "The Enemy God" is unarranged, but with Palmer playing along, or his percussion-only version of a Bach invention), he also turns out to be an interesting alchemist (in part with arranger Harry South).  There's a weird fusion-sax led jam with Emerson (in the background for once) and Joe Walsh (of all people) that turns into a 50s boogie number ("LA Nights"), for example.  Or "New Orleans", which although it sounds like a Jeff Beck track with it's funky beat and extensive talk-box, without Beck (or any lead instrument for that matter) is oddly hollow.  He mixes White Horn Rock (which is nostalgia of a different sort than Emerson's) with Canterbury-style organ with fascinating results ("Food For Your Soul" which is easily the best track on here), and even makes "Tank" not suck.  The group side, as one might expect, is less than stellar.  "Fanfare for the Common Man" appears in the guise of a remarkably Nice-plus-synths sounding track (read: Emerson over dispassionate backing), while "Pirates" may be one of their most ambitious works.  For that track, Sinfield wrote a rather long (for a song) story that gets transformed into a cross between a really short operetta and a production of Grease, complete with orchestra backing.  Lake sounds like the only singer on a stage, but despite an interesting opening (Emerson's wub-bub-bubing synths sound like the background to Dr. Who Meets Frankenstein) the music's eventual devolution into sock-hop territory seems out of place.  It's a not a disaster, but assuredly not a success.  The album in general is a collection of filler, with the exception of Palmer's side.  Now his is a solo album we can only imagine would have sounded like if recorded whole.  This marked the beginning of the end for the group, as much of what came after gets classified under that ominous title of "Contract-Fulfilling", regardless of whether or not that's actually the case.
Ratings Breakdown: (Emerson, ** + Lake, ** + Palmer, ***1/2 + ELP, *1/2 = **)

The Kinks: Muswell Hillbillies (1971), ****

[I hated this review as soon as I finished it.  It's taken a week and a half to fix it, and then a similar amount of time to post. -JH ]

Ray had been writing about the evils of the city (with a smirk), and the treasures of the country (with a sigh) for most of his career.  Here the Kinks have musically retreated to the country as well, going full bore roots rock, with acoustic-based songs and generous helpings of slide guitar from Dave ("Complicated Life").  While Ray may have
not been part of the hippies' retreat from Altamont, he was simply taking his demonstrated love for the scenic and quaint to the next level - going there.  The album is a disturbingly solid collection of catchy songs easily banged out on guitar, but musically Ray's just borrowing from what's in vogue.  That being said, the folk/country/rock style really suits the Kinks, as they don't have the musical talent to really stretch things out; instead allowing them to go for an excellent overall sound.  Frequently you may wonder aloud, "Is this the Kinks?", but at the heart of it all are Ray's lyrics, and if there's anyone who'd use rustic music with lyrics on the plight of suburban/urban people, it's him.  There's a great deal of American roots-rock of the Grateful Dead ilk ("Uncle Son") and Dixieland jazz arrangements on some tunes ("Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues", "Alcohol") a la Randy Newman, and Dave's slide guitar is very authentic.  What really distinguishes this album from prior ones is that Ray's attitude towards his songs' subjects has changed.  Before he was mocking or commenting (think "Sunny Afternoon") - here he's either doing a good job portraying ("Here Come the People in Grey", "Holiday") or he's personally invested in the lyrics ("Alcohol", the beautiful, expansive "Oklahoma U.S.A.").  In fact, the weakest tracks are those "typical Kinks songs" (the tongue-in-cheek "Skin and Bones" and the happy "Have a Cuppa Tea").  In summary, this is an album that shows sarcasm turning to disillusionment, and a bittersweet retreat by a man from the perils of the modern city.  Produced by Ray.

Quicksilver Messenger Service: Shady Grove (1970), ***1/2

[Revised. - JH ]

When session men join a group, big things can happen.  Don't forget that Jimmy Page was once one the top session men in England.  Nicky Hopkins was certainly his equal on the piano, even if not more illustrious.  This was Quicksilver's first album with Hopkins, and his impact is enormous.  Don't be deterred like I was by the first two songs on this album, which feature iffy vocals and nothing astounding.  The third, "3 or 4 Feet From Home" is a blues stomper with guitar and piano both wailing it away.  But better yet are the next two tracks, "Too Far" and "Holy Moly", both of which Hopkins is the center for.  The former is a real classic, and the latter is also a good time, despite it's borrowing from Donovan's "Atlantis".  The back side is more experimental, with guitarist John Cipollina demonstrating that he's more content with playing around with weird effects than actually soloing (the coda to "Joseph's Coda").  There's even a traditional country-rock number that's kind of nice ("Words Can't Say").  But the real stuff is the sad "Flashing Lonesome", with interesting interplay between Hopkins' playing and Cipollina's diddling.  Finally, Hopkins' contributed the uncharacteristic (for a "West Coast" band) "Edward (The Mad Shirt Grinder)", which is a faintly jazzy keyboard masterpiece.  Just listen to the rest of the band try to keep up with him!  If you like piano-based rock songs (and I don't mean bastards like Billy Joel) this delivers, but don't expect Dead or Airplane-like material.
(Capitol SM-391 LP)

The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967), ***

[Supplanted.  So I changed my mind, whoopee! -JH ]

This is perhaps the most bizarre album to come out before psychedelia hit later in '67.  Check this out - you have a German chanteuse fronting a band with a classical pianist on guitar (Lou Reed) an avant-garde bassist/violist (John Cale), another guitarist (Sterling Morrison) and a female non-drum-kit using percussionist (Mo Tucker).  It's hard to describe what the songs are on this album.  Many of the better tracks are sad-tinged conventional pop (the opening "Sunday Morning", "Femme Fatale", "There She Goes" and "I'll Be Your Mirror"), where Reed dutifully acts his role as pop songwriter (his previous job).  But Reed also had a knack for combining unconventional subjects with simple melodies (and sometimes didn't even use melodies).  This includes the 50s piano stomper "Waiting for the Man" about going to buy drugs, "Venus In Furs" the earliest S&M song I've ever heard and graced with a annoying scraping viola courtesy of John Cale, "Heroin" which has only 2 chords, self-destructive lyrics and a downright screechy viola solo.   The rest of the tracks sound like folk-rock gone wrong, mostly because Reed is the worst soloist in the world ("Run Run Run", which sounds like a blues song with a chorus added, and "All Tomorrow's Parties") or horribly wrong (the rambling obligatory Dylan-esque number "The Black Angel's Death Song").  It even ends with some extended feedback-laden non-soloing in "European Son to Delmor Schwartz".  I'm not convinced that Reed and Cale are attempting minimalism, it sounds like Reed really can't play guitar to me.  Groundbreaking?  Certainly.  Fun to listen to?  Not really.  They get half a star for unusual song topics, but the listenability is way too low to get a higher rating.  Produced by Andy Warhol (with Tom Wilson doing one track).

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